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Celebrating Defence Scientists: Amanda, Knowledge Engineer

I always had an inquisitive mind as a child. My father had a range of interests and I naturally developed a curiosity for them too; cars, trains, aircraft, astronomy and art. He was also an engineer, having trained as a machinist and toolmaker.

After leaving sixth form college with four A Levels, my interest in cars first led me to the motor industry and then to motor sport. This was at a time when a woman making a technical career in a perceived ‘men only’ environment was as good as non-existent!

I moved into hands-on scientific research in the dairy industry. I then began a self-funded part-time degree in physics at University College London. On the strength of my studies, the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) — the UKs national measurement standards laboratory — offered me a role. There I spent ten years in various research and measurement areas. Areas included engineering metrology and nuclear material physics.

After I was made redundant I applied to the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) and have worked here for five years. I work with the Warhead Knowledge Team, in Engineering Capability. I use my knowledge of physics and engineering to scope, review, collate, summarise and publish web based products. I do this to ensure that AWE can maintain and develop its capability to deliver warhead systems. Ultimately I help to maintain the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent.

The most enjoyable part of my role is being able to access a very broad base of people and nuclear deterrent knowledge. There aren’t many roles at AWE where you get to experience such a diverse range of technical information. The best thing about my job is expressing science and engineering in a creative way. People don’t usually consider science or engineering being artistic.

The advice I would give to women who want a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) would be to “be yourself”. Don’t let anyone (parents, friends, peers, teachers, etc.) put you off, or try to steer you away from doing anything technical or scientific. Peer pressure is at its worst from the ages of 11 to 16, but your career choice is going to be long term. So, stick with what YOU enjoy, and DON’T follow the herd!

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